I am as bummed as you are to be talking about Christmas train rides before autumn starts, but I have no choice if we want this site to be useful: tickets are selling fast.
Here are a few magical holiday train rides for families who like to plan ahead and a few for those who are happier to keep it low-key and local.
Bay Area Christmas Train Activities in 2020
Uh oh. We're ready and checking on all our favorites. We've made a list, we're checking the websites twice and calling all info lines. So, far, we have no confirmation of any holiday train rides for 2020. Yet…If you and your children are dying to ride the rails, the Roaring Camp Railroad and the Niles Canyon Railway are making autumnal train rides happen (wear a festive red hat or pajamas, who's gonna stop you?).
Bay Area Christmas Train Activities TBD
Santa Train, Napa Valley
Tickets information not available, assume cancelled.
For 90 minutes, you can be transported by games, sing-alongs, and a fun cast of characters. Destination: the North Pole. I took my family for a ride on the Santa Train In 2018. The kids enjoyed the warm chocolate chip cookies and hot chocolate while singing Christmas carols. Taking a picture with Santa while on board a train, how cool is that? Book your tickets early because they sell out every time!
Bay Area Christmas Train Activities Cancelled for 2020
Niles Canyon Train of Lights
The Train of Lights can be picked up at Niles Canyon (Fremont) or at Sunol, providing an hour-long round trip ride, filled with music and lights. The train cars are vintage and open-air, so bundle up! Tickets go on sale Saturday, October 12, 2019 at 10 AM, and sell out within a day or two. Read more about the Train of Lights experience from an East Bay mom >
When: Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday during the holiday season.
Price: $30 for coach seats, everyone ages 3 and up. Other options for nicer carriages or renting out the caboose for a group!
Polar Express at California Railroad Museum, Sacramento
Enjoy hot chocolate and yummy cookies as you ride along with many of the story’s characters such as the Train Conductor, the Dancing Waiters, and a ghostly Hobo. Once you reach the North Pole, the jolly old elf — Santa himself — will come on board to give each passenger a silver sleigh bell, the “first gift of Christmas”. The ride is about 60 minutes, but you may board early per your ticketed time. Our contributor Karen reviewed the Sacramento Christmas Train here >>
When: Try in 2021.
Typical Prices: Under 2, Free; Coach: $50 per person; First Class: $70 per person or $280 per table of four (plus additional booking fees); Save $5 for first ride “matinee”. New open-air car this year is $180/table.
Pro-tip: get on the mailing list to have access to early purchase tickets.
Find more holiday adventures in our East Bay Christmas Activity Guide when the season is right.
[Photos as indicated]